National Kidney Registry recommendations exclude substance abusers from donating kidneys, and transplant centers may refuse live donors with a history of marijuana use. Until this study, however, there had been no evidence about how marijuana use may affect transplant outcomes.
For the study, researchers reviewed kidney transplants from live donors performed between January 2000 and May 2016 at one U.S. transplant center.
Of 294 donors, 31 were marijuana users. Of 230 recipients, 27 used marijuana.
There were no differences in outcomes among donors or recipients related to the donors' use of marijuana, according to the study published recently in the Clinical Kidney Journal.
"A significant shortage in available potential kidney donors exists. Our goal with this study was to start a conversation on this topic and to encourage other centers to study this important question," lead author Duane Baldwin said in a journal news release.
"It is our hope that considering marijuana-using donors could ultimately save lives," he added.
Baldwin is a urologist at Loma Linda University Health in Loma Linda, Calif.
In the United States, nearly 100,000 patients are on the list for kidney transplants, with wait times of 3 to 10 years. Some do not survive long enough on dialysis to receive a transplant.